When Far Cry 3 came out in 2012, we were as surprised as anyone to see it top our advent calendar. It's less surprising to discover that Far Cry 4 offers many of the same joys, from the liberation of an exotic land's outposts and fortresses to the liberation of player movement as you zip about with a grappling hook and wingsuit. There's one big thing that's new - or, er, newly good - and that's co-op.
Graham: Far Cry 4 is the best co-op game not just in 2014, but maybe ever.
Far Cry 3 locked its co-operative mode away within a set of missions separate from the main world or thrust of the rest of the game. I'm sure it took a great deal of effort to produce, but after battling through a too-long, too-shite singleplayer campaign already, I didn't feel like committing to more scripting in order to play it.
Far Cry 4 does the sensible thing then by letting you and a friend pair up in the open world. All the story missions are turned off, leaving nothing but the good bits: the animal hunting, the random karma events, the systemic outposts, the stealthy assassinations and hostage rescues, all the vehicles and guns and wingsuits and toys.
And there's not a one of these things which isn't made more fun by having a friend along for the ride.
I adore the game's gyrocopter, which gives me both a quick route between destinations and a quick method of skipping parts of the game I don't enjoy or have grown weary of. Can't be bothered with the radio towers? Fly to the top. Can't be bothered with an outpost? Hover above it and lob meat grenades to the helpless guards below and watch as bears do the rest.
It's a single-seater vehicle, however. How does this work in co-op? You sit down in the pilot's chair and your friend runs up and presses 'E' experimentally. Oh! Your partner can stand on its frame. As the pilot, you're restricted to only using your sidearm, but that's not true of your comrade. He or she is free to use other weapons and, importantly, the camera that's used to tag enemies on the UI.
An idea is formed. Let's hover alongside the outposts! We'll keep our distance to remain out of sight, but get a clear view of the outpost we're attacking so we can tag everyone inside. Brill.
Every toy and tactic is multiplied in fun and possibility by the inclusion of a partner. I like to play from afar, finding the nearest high ridge with some cover and setting up with a silenced sniper rifle and a bow. Most of my friends like to be similarly stealthy, but they prefer getting in close and personal. This works perfectly. I tag everyone and then call out patrols around the next corner, while my buddy moves quietly and slowly, performing takedowns and hiding bodies. They're about to be seen? I clean up with a quick sniper shot. Someone is running for an alarm? Boom, the alarm is destroyed.
This is more than just dropping two players into an already fun game and letting them have at it, too. Much like the ability to take different roles on the gyrocopter, there's lovely little details all over. For example, if one player is looking at someone, then a blue eye icon appears above their head so the other player knows. That means that if I'm about to snipe someone, my friend knows they don't need to sneak over there and risk being caught. It also means that when we're talking about a particular pair of guards we want to take down simultaneously, we don't need to struggle to describe identical guards over voice comms. We can just count to three and let our screw-ups be our own fault.
I can go on. The netcode occasionally fails to sync certain things in the environment between players, but it's good enough that you can, for example, crouch on the back of another player's truck and not weirdly slide off the back of it like you do in most other games. As well as being able to stand on the gyrocopter, you can also grapple from the bottom of it, lowering yourself down to otherwise inaccessible locations or just pinwheeling about like a giddy loon. The way much of the level design functions - especially the forts, with their multiple entrances and hidden tunnels - also works perfectly for two-pronged assaults.
I wrote in my review that the best thing about Far Cry 4 was that it was a big, systemic sandbox, full of hard rules and predictable outcomes, through which players could pick their own, extremely satisfying path. The best thing about all of those things is that you can now play it with a friend. It is in every way the successor to all the things I enjoyed about the co-op in various Splinter Cell or Rainbow Six games.
Shame about Uplay though.
John: I should like to express my thoughts about Far Cry 4's co-op in the form of interpretive dance. But sadly I am not allowed. Instead, Graham and I played together for 20 minutes. Then we played Far Cry 4 co-op for twenty minutes. We videoed the latter:
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